June 16, 2011 § 14 Comments
This guy and his twin guard the front entrance to the Art Institute in Chicago. It’s clear by his stance, by the dip-and-curve of his tail that he means business.
It is odd to snap pictures of paintings; you can go through hoops to get the lighting and the color correct, all without flash which understandably is not allowed. You feel like you can and should snap pictures of the artwork, as though in so doing you can take something of it with you. But you’ll never get it right. Paintings are really three-dimensional and taking of photo of them literally flattens them.
(by Toulouse Lautrec)
Still, you may not want to buy the art postcards of any of the artwork that are found in the gift shop. These, too, cannot nearly capture anything of the artwork, except the memory of seeing it, of the way it makes you gasp when you walk from exhibit room to exhibit room, standing there staring at certain pieces that move you particularly, like the Caillebotte you saw here years ago on one of your first trips to Chicago with your husband and seeing the painting now is like seeing an old friend in the midst of this metropolis where everyone else is a stranger…
…being caught off guard by one of Renoir’s portraits of a child that is so sweet without being saccharine-sentimental…
(by Jean Auguste Renoir)
…getting smacked in the psyche by looking at the original of Van Gogh’s room in Provence, a piece made even headier by the fact that you lived there, in Provence for a spring and summer and you know what he saw and smelled in the provencal air…
(by Van Gogh)
…and you duck into the “moderns” and think you have nothing to relate to with them, but then O’Keefe’s skull and bones in shades of white calls from the wall and so does Hopper’s Blvd of Forgotten Dreams and so does that silly old, nearly clicheed American Gothic which is of a man and his daughter, not his wife, and you can hardly believe it. You’re standing there looking at it, and realize the artist stood there looking at it, too, while working on it. And you marvel.
And you realize that if you had to go to school again, you could learn it all here, looking at the artwork and understanding how and why it was created and what it means, suggests or ignores.
And you stop taking pictures and you just try to “get it,” to feel the message, the reason of it all.
And you think that if you could stop right there, sit on one of the benches off to the side and open a blank book, you could fill it with a story, right there in medias res, surrounded by all that history and paint.